Wing Commander “Bill” Lander

Wing Commander Lander kept a diary of events that ran from the 1-16 March 1945. It gave a graphic description of almost-continuous Close Quarter Fighting, which characterised the struggle for the vital airfield of Meiktila.

Wing Commander Laker
Wing Commander Laker.

Bill Lander was tireless in commanding his Wing; he set a personal example to his officers and men. His bravery inspired everyone under his command and drove the seemingly “indomitable” spirit that existed amongst the RAF Regiment force. On the morning of 24th March, the Wing Commander led the daily dawn sweep to clear the Meiktila airfield. The ensuing contact with the Japanese resulted in himself and his runner, LAC “Jock” Dakers, being killed by enemy snipers. He had carried the attack so far into the Japanese defended area that it was several days before the bodies could be recovered for burial. If only he had heeded the advice of his last spoken words, recounted by LAC Ron Finch who was lying alongside him:

Watch it; the bastards are in the corner!

Wing Commander Laker talking to his men.
Wing Commander Laker talking to his men.

Perhaps the RAF Regiment action at Meiktila was best summed up by the CO of 17 Spitfire Squadron RAF, Squadron Leader “Ginger” Lacey (better known as the Battle of Britain Ace with 28 kills to his name – Sergeant “Ginger” Lacey).

The RAF Regiment won bloody renown in the fierce fighting for the repossession of the landing ground every humid morning. It is a shame that so many went unrewarded, like Lander, a first-class Wing Commander.

Sqn Ldr “Ginger” Lacey

Both Wing Commander Lander and LAC Dakers graves are in the CWGC at Htaukkyan near Rangoon.

Wing Commander C M Lander, Royal Air Force 24th March 1945, Age 30. In proud and loving memory.
LANDER, Wing Commander, CUTHBERT MONS, 108159, Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve. 24 March 1945. Age 30. Son of William Richard and Mary Eleanor Lander; husband of Eileen Olive Lander, of Bancroft, Northern Rhodesia. Grave Reference: 20. B. 24.
1348027 Leading Aircraftsman W. Dakers, Royal Air Force. 24th March 1945, Age 23. At the going down of the sun and in the morning, we will remember him.
DAKERS, Leading Aircraftsman, WILLIAM, 1348027. 2708 Sqdn. RAF Regt., Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve. 24 March 1945. Age 23. Son of Mary Bella Dakers; nephew of Selina Jane Dakers, of Aberdeen. His brother, Henry Frederick Reoch Dakers, also died in service. Grave Reference: 20. F. 14.